If love once lost turns into loathing, it’s true as much for ideas as romantic entanglements. The classic model is the young idealist who on the path to revolt strays from the barricades and becomes the night watchman of orthodoxy. Lord Macaulay observed in what is perhaps the most damning book review in the history of beautiful letters that the English poet Robert Southey swung from a zealous Jacobin fevered by the French Revolution to a zealous anti-Jacobin because he ran on zeal more than introspection.
There is a Muslim variation on the theme. A number of Islamic deserters have cropped up in the years since OBL made the marginal faith into a national question. They are former insiders, you understand, and like former communists David Horowitz and Irving Kristol whose baptism into the most hawkish nationalism has the feel of a Pravda caricature, we are supposed to lend credence to their fatwas because they have, in the common parlance, been there, done that. They are authentic.
In touchy political subjects that demand some measure of tact and careful handling, insiders are a useful ideological tool in the armor of the state, and with their highly prized Muslim biography, a number of them have become the brown face of the War on Terror.
The average Muslim renegade who has shed Islam is humane and decent. They wish to have no connection with this obscenity; but the average does not capture headlines. For that you need loud eccentrics with a sharp eye for controversy.
The pioneer of this sport is Ibn Warraq. He began his career before the onset of 9/11 as a rather lone detractor of Islam with some flash of sincerity. If a man wishes to bury the Divine, I will fetch my shovel. But if he was ever motivated by the good of Muslims, he’s long abandoned it for the lower precincts of right-wing polemic. It’s impossible to distinguish his work from the fire breathings and heart burnings of Likudniks.
It’s a long procession of antipathies hinged on the premise that Muslims resent America not because of the millions of them it has laid low by its international policy, but soley because their creed fosters hate against the tender hearted infidel apolitically who labors only for their own welfare.
To make the surly ingrates of Islam better admire the charms of modernity such as freedom of speech and worship, he proposes a referendum on boarding up all mosques in the West till the US-backed Saudi monarchy permits the construction of churches in the kingdom. Brandishing his civil libertarian credentials further still, he says we must outlaw the hijab and stop all Muslim immigration. It is not clear whether he thinks the ban on migration from Islamic states ought to extend to himself or whether he will, for the sake of practicing what he preaches, hop on the next flight back to Pakistan.
But if he is opposed to the Westward flow of Easterners, he is vocal in cheering the influx of Western armies to the Orient. As if to show that apostates can play the executioner’s role with the best of the Mecca boys, he says that, in the fashion of the ten year war in Afghanistan and the attack on Libya, we must pursue “regime change” in Iran to counter its threat against the West and its proxy war on Israel through Hizbollah, which one is informed is a “terrorist” outfit:
The fall of the Islamic Republic must be the primary foreign policy goal of all Western States, and when it comes will be the equivalent of the fall of the Soviet Union.
We must bomb the turbans to freedom:
Is Obama seriously leaving open the option of using force, or is it more “let me make it clear” and “I am really serious this time” kind of pusillanimous rhetoric?
If you are disinclined to treat the Horowitz of the world as a reliable authority on socialism just because they had formerly been enchanted by it, you will observe why it is high folly to regard a Muslim turncoat who authors books like Defending The West and Why The West Is The Best as anything but a wartime propagandist. As a textbook case of how not to relate to one’s former community, his story holds much promise, but as political and social commentary, the less he says the more intelligent he appears.
Another specimen of this renegade theme is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She cultivates the posture of a women’s rights activist; very nice that; who could oppose such a worthy cause? But like the politician who claims to uphold family values and is caught mounting the babysitter, Hirsi Ali strives to prevent Muslim women escaping dire straits from seeking asylum in the West.
The womenfolk of Islam, she confides, are here to “outbreed” the white natives in just the manner Glenn Beck (on whose cable show our fair lady is a beloved guest) warns of the Mexican invasion poised to rob America from the gringo. With so many scheming foreigners out to get us, it’s enough to make a patriot grab his rifle and round them up.
For that we may count on the likes of Geert Wilders, an anti-immigrant nativist with whom Hirsi Ali worked cosily in the Dutch parliament to shut off the very immigration avenues which gave her a new shot at life. The migrants, one is told censoriously, claim to seek better economic prospects, but these serpentine Mohammedans really come to snatch away your ham and bacon sandwich and make your granny burka up.
Her utterances are nothing to marvel at. When your employer is the neoconservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and your hubby is Niall Ferguson, a man who proudly crows “I’m a fully paid up member of the neo-imperialist gang”, your higher faculties can suffer a hemorrhage. Indeed, one may even begin to push for war against Iran as our humanitarian has taken to of late. We must crush Islam militarily and show those bad Mullahs up, she thuds, with no small relish. Since there is no such physical object called Islam to crush, the reality of this statement is crushing Muslims. And some of these people, I am told, happen to be women.
Perhaps my favourite plier of the trade though is the flamboyant Irshad Manji. A charmer by all accounts. But have a peek between the covers of her book, The Trouble With Islam Today, and what do you find? We learn that Arabs are the chief impediment to a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the Israelis are the pinnacle of reason and moderation, a sentiment rehashed in her chummy CNN appearance with the Zionist Shmuley Boteach. And do you know why the World Trade Centre attacks occurred reader? Because the Arab hijackers, says she, were desperate to get laid and too scatterbrained to swing by a brothel. Suicide bombing has no relation to politics or conflict she writes, but is borne of the needy Arab man’s craving to bed heavenly nymphos.